A major haul of cocaine – understood to be worth more than £200m – has been seized from a sailing yacht off the coast of Cornwall.
The load, reported to weigh around two tonnes, is understood to be the second largest ever seized in the UK.
It follows an investigation led by the National Crime Agency with assistance from the UK Border Force and Dutch, Portuguese and French authorities.
Border Force cutter HMC Vigilant intercepted the sailing yacht on Thursday, bringing the vessel into Newlyn Port on the south coast of Cornwall.
The Border Force cutter HMC Vigilant is seen behind the yacht in Newlyn Harbour
Dutch nationals Maarten Peter Pieterse, 59, and Emile Adriaan Jeroen Schoemaker have been charged with drug importation offences and will appear at Bristol Magistrates Court on Saturday via video link.
Andrew Quinn, from the National Crime Agency, told Sky News: “Through liaising with international colleagues and the Border Force we have intervened the vessel which has been brought to Newlyn.
“The search is ongoing and a significant amount of controlled drugs have been recovered.
Two men have been charged over the large amount of drugs found on the yacht
“The distribution and supply of controlled drugs is a significant market in the UK.
“County lines is recent example of where we are really focussing on where these drugs are being distributed both from inner cities through to rural communities.”
He added: “Everything we can do to prevent these drugs getting on to the street also prevents further violence.”
At one point the Royal Navy bomb squad was called in over concerns about an item on board, leading to the harbour being closed to the public.
The haul is so big the operation to clear the boat has spanned three days.
Officers unload drugs from the Marcia sailing yacht
Nicola Bainbridge, from the UK Border Force, says operations such as this bring a number of challenges.
She said: “It can be a very complex and difficult job. You are looking potentially at a vessel being adapted so you find false areas, false walls, false ceilings and it’s only by having experienced and trained officers who would know something is wrong with the vessel that would look there and find these potential concealments.”
It is understood the quantity of cocaine found is second only to that seized on board a Hamal fishing boat off the coast of Aberdeen in 2015, which saw a haul of more than three tonnes of cocaine.